February 7, 2012
Finance Committee Markup on Highway Investment
Senator Michael B. Enzi
Mr. Chairman, I am concerned about the long-term viability of the Highway Trust Fund. The highway program is incredibly important to all our states. The proposal we look at today gets us through the next two years of spending, albeit with ten years of revenue, but does nothing to address the future of this program.
We are looking at some real difficult decisions about our overall budget but especially about the future of the Highway Trust Fund. If members of this committee and the full Senate want to keep the highway program viable through a trust fund instead of subjected to the general fund, we need to either cut spending or generate more revenue. We can certainly give states more flexibility in how they prioritize the federal funds they receive, but we should not and cannot ignore that with this bill we are just buying time.
I know there are a lot of sensitivities in talking about the rate of the motor fuel tax. There is no doubt that individuals and businesses are still stressed in this economy and are struggling to make ends meet. People in rural states like Wyoming, Montana, and Utah have few options to driving long distances for many of their needs. We cannot continue to kick this conversation down the road for another two years.
I also am concerned about the use of retirement savings as the vast majority of offsets for this tax bill. This is not the first time retirement savings have been used for savings outside of the retirement savings area. Just two years ago, the savings from the Pension Relief Act was used to offset the spending for the doctor payment fixes in Medicare. In addition, there are a couple of amendments that members use retirement savings to spend for highways and other items. We need to be very careful of using these tax savings for non-retirement savings needs because when we need to improve the retirement system then we won’t have the tax savings to make those changes.